Art Institute lions to climbers: Roar!

July 13, 2012

Jewell Washington

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(Art Institute of Chicago)
Flanking the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago, Edward Kemeys' lions are among the city’s most beloved and recognizable sculptures. Officials installed camera motion sensors to deter people from climbing on them this summer.

Since 1894, two bronze lion sculptures have stood silent watch at the Art Institute of Chicago. Nowadays if you get too close they’ll let you know it; a startling lion roar will blare from the art institute building speakers.

It’s meant to deter visitors who climb the popular 8-foot tall lion statues to get their picture taken. Institute officials said fewer people have been taking the risk to climb since the roaring started during NATO weekend. There’s also a warning that the Art Institute will call the police.

“It’s really about when the front stairs are not staffed by security officers as they are when the museum is open,” said Erin Hogan, the Art Institute’s director of public affairs. “It doesn’t go off unless you’re actually on one of the lions.”

Starr Richardson is a Bennigan’s restaurant waitress that works across the street from the Art Institute. She said she and her customers hear the roar throughout the day and think it’s a useful tactic.

“I just think it’s hilarious. The guests think it’s hilarious because we sit there and watch people do it over and over and over again and it frightens them,” she said.

But some people strolling along Michigan Ave. on Friday were in a bit of an uproar after being startled.

“If somebody is really intoxicated and that sound comes out they’re definitely going to fall off the lion,” Elise Silvestri warned.

“I just think Chicago has a lot of bigger issues that they’re dealing with this summer other than the police being called for the lions,” Jessica Nodulman said.

Carlie Nodulman agreed with her sister and their mother, Barbara Nodulman, who called the lion sculptures a Chicago landmark where people should be able to take their picture and not be frightened.

Hogan said the roaring alert is in a trial phase.